Wednesday, 25 February 2009

The Corpse Grinders

Ah, The Corpse Grinders. I’m pretty sure that, when people find out I’m a fan of horror films, they imagine I sit up late watching things with titles like that all the time. But the truth is, as nasty as it sounds, The Corpse Grinders is about as innocuous as 70s grindhouse features get. It’s almost charming, in fact... Or, at least, as charming as a film about unscrupulous factory-owners using human flesh as a cat food ingredient could be, anyway.

With such catsploitation dynamite as a premise, you’d think director Ted V. Mikels would be happy enough to stick a few perfunctory characters in the way and cut straight to the corpse-grinding (I’m sure Herschell Gordon Lewis would have) but he and his team actually take the idea a step further. You see, it turns out that cats, once they’ve tasted human giblets, won’t settle for anything less, so it’s not long before pets the length and breadth of Pasadena are biting the hand that feeds them... Literally! Logically, it’s a leap, I’ll admit. If cats are that insatiable, shouldn’t they already be going around attacking horses, or whatever else went into pet food in the 70s? But, no matter, the cats are OUT FOR BLOOD! And if that means fifty shots of alcoholic housewives clutching wriggling cats to their throats, then so be it.

On that note, something tells me that most of the feline stars of The Corpse Grinders weren’t properly trained stunt cats, but actually just regular cats lured by the promise of a quick paycheque and fifteen minutes of fame. But I hear that most of the moggies were supplied by cast and crew members so, assuming they wouldn’t have wanted any harm to come to their beloved pets, I’m telling myself that none were harmed during the making of this film.

Let’s take stock before we lose the plot, anyway. So far, we’ve got crooked cat food manufacturers cramming human corpses into cans. Next to the factory, there’s a conveniently located graveyard, where a hulking goon and his Cockney, doll-loving wife dig up fresh bodies to feed into the meat grinder. And, oh yeah, at a (possibly nearby) hospital, there’s a 70s porn star doctor and his buxom nurse lover who stumble over the plot when the hospital cat goes crazy for the doctor’s man-meat. And, with that guy’s sexy moustache, who wouldn’t, quite frankly?


72 minutes whiz by, as more good pets go bad and several factory employees end up as corned beef – and, with dead bodies being chucked fully-clothed into the grinder left, right and centre, it’s no wonder the cats are going crazy. They’re probably choking on the buttons. Eventually, Hot Nurse puts herself in peril by going to investigate the cat food company. Alone. At night. And everything culminates in a climax wherein yet more people get minced, after being shot and – rather clumsily I thought – collapsing onto the conveyor belt and getting dragged into the blades (which in a nice touch, actually have blades painted on them as far as I could see).

“Lotus Cat Food – for cats who like people” runs the company’s amusing slogan, in a typical example of this enjoyable film’s light touch. Half of the scenes take place in swirls of mist and/or green-and-red lighting, while half the cast look like Jerri Blank from Strangers with Candy. I had fun, in other words. A remake along the lines of the recent Wizard of Gore or 2001 Maniacs couldn’t ever capture its straight-faced zaniness but, at the same time, there’s the potential for some camped-up, CGI gore-strewn lunacy here, and I think the makers of Trailer Park of Terror should have a go at it.

Best watched, then, with the cat safely locked outside, dinner fully digested, and your tongue shoved firmly into your cheek. Or someone else’s. If you’re still peckish.

Rating: 3/5

Monday, 23 February 2009

DVDs I bought in London!



Yes, folks, it’s a filler post!

Well, I have been away for the best part of a week, after all. And I’ve still not made it to the end of The Corpse Grinders so I’ve nothing else to review. (Seriously, is that film seven hours long or something?) But while I wait to find out if anything – anything – can halt those killer kitties in their tracks, you can see what DVDs I got my hands on while I was on holiday. I know... it’s like having a crystal ball that looks into my brain or something!

First up is the only one I’ve actually seen already – and, for my money, it’s one of the best slasher movies made since the year 2000. Ten times more creepy and suspenseful than it is Norwegian (and it’s pretty darn Norwegian!) it’s...



Then there’s:



I’ve always found Tom Hanks scary enough (Forrest Gump... shudder!) but what about his son, Colin? Well, it looks like Col gets his freak on as a deranged stalker in this one, which I didn’t even know had been released here until I spotted it on the shelf in Fopp. And all for just £4! Let’s hope that, as it says on the cover, “IT GETS UNDER YOUR SKIN.”



Next, as I mentioned during last year’s Sham Shocktober, here’s a famous horror film I’ve never actually seen. Actually, I’ve not seen the 1922 version of Nosferatu either, but giving this 1979 effort a go should be a good start.



Some titles just stick with you, don’t they? I’m like that with Eyes without a Face, which sounds like a giallo but is actually a French film from 1960. It looks like such an original that I’m already warming a place for it on my favourite movies list, and just hoping it can live up to my expectations.

Finally, there has to be a gamble:



Sleepover Nightmare looks pretty terrible (in fact, I can’t think of many post-1990 low-budget slashers I’ve actually enjoyed) but I’ll give it a chance just because it has the word “sleepover” in the title. And “nightmare”. In fact, come to think of it, it’s doing pretty well on both counts.

Anyway, The Corpse Grinders isn’t going to watch itself, is it? I best go and get on with it. Here kitty kitty...

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Now showing

My friend Simon spotted this intriguing new film playing at the cinema the other night:


As for me, I’m about halfway through the crazy killer-cats shocker, The Corpse Grinders. I seem to be working my way through it in ten-minute segments, to the extent that it’s turned into a demented never-ending nightmare lurking in the background of everything else I do... Will I ever finish it? Can I ever finish it? And, as if things weren’t bad enough, I’m going to be away for the rest of the week, so it’ll be some time yet before I find out if the killer kitties ever get their comeuppance. The epic continues...

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Friday the 13th: A NEW New Beginning


Watching the remake of Friday the 13th this evening, I experienced a startling revelation: I don’t really like watching slasher movies in the cinema. I mean, I do love watching slashers – always have, always will – but I get much more out of them at home on my TV.

I realize this flies totally against the whole “best enjoyed with an audience” aspect of shared-experience horror but – you know what? – the novelty of hearing someone shout “Kill the bitch!” at the screen, I can actually live without. Thinking back, the only really good time I’ve ever had with a slasher in the movie theatre was Scream, back when the number of mobile phones used onscreen actually outweighed those going off in the audience. But, anyway, I’m not here for a rant about movie audiences; my newly realized preference for fuzzy telebox viewing is my own problem. I’m here to look at Friday the 13th: The New New Beginning!

And let’s drag one fact out of the woods and into the campsite clearing right away: there’s no real doubt that the Friday the 13th redux is a better film than its predecessor. It’s extremely well made, looks great, and has something approaching a proper story (hell, it even has subplots). But is it more enjoyable? The short answer’s “no”. The original may look like old hat these days but, even watching it thirty years later, there’s that sense of risk, of gory abandon, of envelopes being pushed, that’s completely absent in this new version.

Part of that – obviously – is down to the fact that the once-shocking gore and violence are pretty mainstream stuff nowadays, thanks to the likes of CSI and the ever more extreme and nasty horror films produced by Hollywood. I actually think the gore is pretty well handled by the new Friday: it’s not literally thrown at you, as in the recent My Bloody Valentine remake, and there’s even a couple of effective fade-to-black moments where you might have been expecting a squirting prosthetic. Subtle! Ironically, however, the gore in the original 1980s F13th movies was somehow more titillating; that delight at seeing what they managed to get past the censors, being grateful for every surviving spot of blood splatter... That’s entertainment.

As far as leading performances go, I’d take Jared Padalecki over MBV’s Jensen Ackles any day. Jared’s certainly more likeable than his Supernatural co-star here, although that may be down to the fact that his character in Friday the 13th is the only male not presented as a total jerk. Seriously... you’ll probably never see a slasher so determined to make you dislike its characters. Is that a problem? Not hugely. Jason’s victims are there to be killed, and one of the new gang – the smarmy Trent, played by Travis Van Winkle – is so deliciously detestable that anticipating his demise is a pleasure. But, overall, I’ve not seen such an unsympathetic and unpleasant bunch since Freddy vs. Jason, which came from the same writers, Damian Shannon and Mark Swift. Humanitarians they are not.

Most crucially, Friday the 13th 2009 does feel like a Friday the 13th movie. Jason is a palpable, lethal menace and his methods are galvanizingly brutal. Would he handcuff someone and keep them alive in a mineshaft for six weeks as he does here? Not the Jason I know, but I’m still more than satisfied with this monster – who’s hulking, inhuman and so vivid you can practically smell him.

Also effective is the setting: just seeing the signs for Camp Crystal Lake is enough to give you a nostalgic goosebump or two in this context, although what the deal with all the mineshafts is, I’m not sure (there’s actually more underground mayhem in this than there was in last month’s My Bloody Valentine, and that was set in a mining town). Amusingly, the campsite itself has been abandoned since 1980, but characters are continually passing its weather-beaten signposts in a “this shouldn’t work but dammit it does” touch of wistful cheesiness.

Friday the 13th: The Remake, then, isn’t a disaster. Platinum Dunes haven’t turned out a reimagining on a par with their superb Texas Chainsaw Massacre – or even one that’s an outrageous exaggeration of a flattish original, à la Amityville – but they’ve got enough right to intrigue fans whilst keeping the mainstream appeal broad. An interesting slasher... that’s an interesting concept in itself. Can’t wait to watch it on the comfort of my TV.

Rating: 3/5

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Mirror Images

This cannot be healthy! I’m talking about my current obsession with Gregory Dark’s Mirror Images, which he directed under the unlikely name of Alexander Gregory Hippolyte back in the early 90s. And, if I may regress back to my teenage years for a moment, using the advanced self-hypnosis techniques of which I’m a master... Down the staircase... back to 1992... Yes, here I am now... I see myself standing in the local video shop in a Global Hypercolor T-shirt... Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince are playing on the radio, and I’m guiltily sneaking peaks at a shelf that looks something like this:


...and there in the middle is Mirror Images, along with its sequel. (It’s gone straight to video.) Obviously a very slutty film, and not one I ever dared lay a hand on at the time but, seeing it now – wow, that cover looks familiar. Even through the mists of time! Anyway, I’m going to count to three now and snap myself back to the present for a nice retrospective paragraph or two.

1992 was the year of the erotic thriller, mainly thanks to Basic Instinct, which I did manage to see – in French, which made it seem even ruder – a couple of years later during a school trip to France. Sex back then was big business, much as it is these days – only, where today’s teens are watching 2 Girls 1 Cup on a laptop, we presumably considered Shannon Whirry removing her bra the height of pornographic naughtiness.

In order to get such perversity into video stores, producers routinely dress it up as being part of a movie. So, throughout the 80s, nudity was associated with slasher movies and sex comedies; in the 90s, the trend was for “adult thrillers” and Gregory Dark led the pack with such classics as Animal Instincts, Carnal Crimes, Night Rhythms and Secret Games, which from the looks of things focus heavily on voyeurism, adultery, prostitution and, if you’re especially lucky, moderate S&M.

I say “from the looks of things” because I don’t know from personal experience. I never did pluck up the courage to rent anything from that shelf. But Mirror Images was playing on Movies4Men at the weekend and I decided to give it a spin thanks to the familiar title and the fact that I’ve been enjoying Amanda By Night’s Not so Basic Instincts sex-thrillers column at Horror Yearbook for some time now.

And, oh my god, it was so good... Nipple-lickingly, evil twinningly, light-lesbianismly good. With an actual plot, plus some recognizable faces (Jeff Conaway from Grease! John O’Hurley from Seinfeld!) and a guaranteed bout of steamy bosom-jiggling every ten minutes. I honestly had to check the TV guide to make sure I hadn’t flicked on Citizen Kane by accident.


Delia Sheppard plays Kaitlin, the beautiful, repressed housewife of Jeff (played by Jeff Conaway – coincidence?). Jeff’s some sort of PR person (PR was big in the 90s, remember) and currently working on a campaign to get a sleazy-looking man called Carter Sayles elected into office. (Office of what exactly, I can’t quite remember, as there was a buttock-thrusting scene that completely distracted me from my notes.) When Jeff’s not at the office, he’s bullying poor Kaitlin into attending fundraisers and the like, in dresses he picks out for her. But she’s not just a trophy, you know? She’s got needs... She needs to make love, to feel like a woman, not some vapid doll on the arm of a big-haired businessman. (Big hair was big in the 90s too, remember. Or was that the 80s? Either way, Jeff’s hair is bigger than it has any right to be.)

Kaitlin gets her way and stays in for the evening, much to her husband’s annoyance, and decides to have a bit of “me time” – you know, sitting in front of a mirror wearing just your lingerie, slowly disrobing to saxophone music, etc etc. We’ve all done it. Suddenly, the phone rings and on the other end is... Delia Sheppard again! Yes, Kaitlin has a twin called Shauna. A twin with a mysterious life! Shauna has to leave town for a few days and asks Kaitlin to keep an eye on her apartment while she’s gone.

Jumping at the chance to snoop around her secretive sibling’s abode, Kaitlin quickly gets dressed, does her hair, gets undressed to some saxophone music, gets dressed again, and rushes out. Across town, Shauna’s landlord mistakes her for her sister (ooh, plot twists ahead!) and lets her in...

...Into an Aladdin’s cave of early 90s magic! God, I love Shauna’s apartment. There’s mannequins, wigs, silhouette art, a secret room... I thought I’d died and gone to Sliver. And Kaitlin loves it too, swiftly disrobing (no saxophone) and trying on a few of Shauna’s fabulous dresses. Fabulously slutty dresses. Shauna’s obviously some sort of prostitute... Maybe that’s why she’s had to leave town. Maybe she’s in danger. But who cares?! Kaitlin hasn’t been getting any for months now and Shauna’s blond, big-haired boyfriend is knocking at the door...


Now, I love movies about secret double lives almost as much as I love early 90s apartments belonging to glamorous call girls, and Mirror Images is one of the best. One of THE BEST, I tell you! It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that, while dressed as Shauna, Kaitlin discovers a new sexual freedom, a taste for lesbianism, some nasty home truths and – oh yeah – an international drugs ring extending into the upper echelons of power. All in 90 minutes!

Director Gregory Dark has recently gone somewhat more legit, helming the 2006 slasher movie See No Evil, which I’m also a big fan of. Even 15 years ago, though, he was clearly managing to put together an engaging film, albeit in the guise of softcore erotica. I did wish Mirror Images had a slightly more dramatic climax, but it’s not bad, and the film as a whole is a better thriller than some of the theatrical efforts released at the time by the big studios (such as Guilty as Sin and Trial by Jury – both quite dire). Its sequel, Mirror Images II, has a lot to live up to, let me tell you. Now, if only I dared rent it.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

The A-Z of F13

I’m just thrilled to be able to contribute to all the Friday the 13th remake hype with my latest article at Retro Slashers, A ‘Friday the 13th’ Alphabet. Everywhere you turn at the moment, it seems that Ol’ Hockeymask and Pop Culture Icon, Mr Jason Voorhies, is stalking you. It’s like being back in 1989 again, except this time it’s not just Manhattan he’s taking... but the world! Which presumably means he’ll spend a few weeks on a cruise boat sailing around the Cape of Good Hope, before docking in Sri Lanka or somewhere for the last 20 minutes.

Oh dear, what am I going on about today? Just giving you something to do while you await my review of the 1992 erotic thriller Mirror Images, okay? Now you can’t say I don’t care.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Dardo talks!

Amanda (of the incomparable Made for TV Mayhem) sent a Premio Dardo award my way today, showering Anchorwoman In Peril! with so many kind compliments that I feel like Kate Winslet in Oscar season. So now I get to nominate five other blogs I think deserve the award... In fact, I don’t just get to nominate; by taking part, I actually spread the award, just like an STD. And by that I mean a Sensationally Transmitted Disease!

Anyway, thanks Amanda and, since you named Cinema du Meep in the same breath, I’ll have to start thinking outside the blog when it comes to my other five favourites:

Freddy in Space – Seriously, just how prolific is Johnny Boots?! I think the guy writes in his sleep. Not that I’m complaining because he really knows his horror and always has plenty of interesting stuff to say.

Giallo Fever – Looking for intelligent discussion of ultra-rare Italian thrillers, plus posters and reviews you simply won’t get anywhere else? Look no further than this site run by an Edinburgh-based PhD student.

Linus Loves 80s Horror – And I love Linus! Evocative reviews that mix personal reminiscences with insightful commentary.

Deep Dish – Then, when I’ve had enough horror, it’s Golden Girls and naked boys all the way with this ultra-fun, seriously gay blog.

My So-Called Strife – Every blogger has a secret cyber-crush whose musings they’re inexplicably addicted to. This is mine.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Sweet Sixteen

It’s been a couple of weeks since I watched Sweet Sixteen and I’ve been meaning to cast a critical eye over it for a while now, but... meh. It’s hardly calling out to be reviewificated. Not because it’s bad – it isn’t. But it isn’t the slasher movie that its DVD cover and reputation would suggest, and how it’s even ended up being classified as a slasher, I’m not sure.

Well, actually, I have a pretty good idea... It was released during the slasher’s golden age (1983 to be precise) and stars Dana Kimmell, fresh from her stint as Friday the 13th Part III’s final girl. And THANK THE SLASHER GODS for Dana Kimmell in this movie because, without her, it wouldn’t be half as much fun.

That’s a pretty controversial comment considering Kimmell has since gone on to badmouth the Friday the 13th series, violence in horror films, nudity in horror films and, well, just about everything that makes horror any fun. Nice one, Ms Kimmell – you’re welcome to your post-slasher career of one-off appearances in daytime soaps – but I’ll admit it: your funny and engaging presence is the best thing about Sweet Sixteen.

Kimmell plays Marci Burke, a small-town Nancy Drew-type who reads books like this:



...and is first on the scene when the body of a local boy is discovered with multiple stab wounds. Quickly pumping her sheriff father for information, Marci regales her classmates with the gory details, whilst all the while keeping one disparaging eye on new girl, Melissa Morgan (Aleisa Shirley), who was apparently the last person to see the dead boy alive. I mean, would you trust a girl who eats apples this seductively...?



If all of this makes Marci sound like a bit of a bitch, I’m giving you the wrong impression... She’s actually a crazy hilarious bitch, and in many ways holds the film together. It’s not entirely her show, however, because she also has an almost equally funny older brother, Hank (Steve Antin), along for the ride.

By this point, you can probably see the entire plot of the movie spreading out in front of you in comfortingly familiar widescreen: bodies will pile up; the sleuthing siblings will investigate; Melissa’s behaviour will get stranger and stranger and— Nope! Sorry, not this movie. There’s one more murder and Marci and Hank scare each other silly talking about it, but everything basically dissipates into a sea of subplots involving archaeologist Patrick Macnee, tensions between the locals and their Native American neighbours, and a whole tin of red herrings.

Marci and Hank actually end up befriending the mysterious Melissa and attending her titular sweet sixteen party – although, when I say “befriend”, I’m using the term generously considering that the birthday present they give her is an old handkerchief. Look, you can see she just adores it! And look how pleased the siblings look with themselves! Told you they were just a leeeetle bit on the “crazy hilarious bitches” side:



Things eventually come together in a quick round of last-minute stabbings and a not-very-surprising revelation concerning the identity of the killer but, if you’ve been led to believe this was going to be a slasher movie, you’ll be mondo disappointado. It’s much more along the lines of a made-for-TV mystery, which of course suited me just fine but isn’t likely to mollify anyone who’s shelled out for the special edition (!) DVD, especially considering the poor transfer.

Speaking of the DVD, you get a Theatrical Version and Director’s Cut, which purportedly aren’t hugely dissimilar. I took a look at what’s apparently the main difference between the two: the opening scene, which, in the Director’s Cut, involves a long, steamy shower sequence with the – eek! – supposedly 15-year-old Melissa, sans apple and clothes.

I actually preferred the Theatrical opening, mainly because it offers more of Dana Kimmell... There she sits reading that fabulous Murder Mystery book as a storm rages and a mysterious knock is heard at the door. Cue suspense music followed by a jolt I’m not going to spoil here, except to note that (1) it has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the movie, (2) was obviously filmed months later, and (3) is just fucking wonderful.

Nice movie, shame about the slasher delusion.

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

They’re dropping like flies

Today I strike another title off the list of unseen horrors I compiled for Sham Shocktober. Yep, I done readed Vince A. Liaguno’s terrific slasher novel, The Literary Six... I mean, anyone can watch a movie, right? But you have to be some kind of genius to read a whole book and stuff.

Luckily, The Lit 6 is about as much fun as you can have reading anything other than your sister’s secret diary. For my full review, head on over to Retro Slashers – and be sure to top it off with a visit to Liaguno’s own website where you can watch the book’s trailer. Yes, a trailer for a novel... It’s so very now! You can probably even “download” it to watch on your PDA, or something. And, by PDA, I refer of course to your new-fangled Portable Dishwashing Answerphone... Erm, I think.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Two ventures into the deepest, starkest realms of the supernatural

One of the benefits of working in a local history library (and you have to grab ’em where you can) is that I often come across interesting and funny titbits in the line of duty – some of which end up on my other blog, Musty Moments. Today, whilst searching a 1964 edition of the Yorkshire Evening Post, my eye was naturally drawn to this ad:



What a different world it seems, 40 years ago, when adverts like this would’ve been appearing in the local paper! Here’s a photo (from 1970) of the Leeds ABC cinema where this programme originally played. It closed in 1999 and was finally demolished last year:



It looks like The Gorgon and The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb were an official Hammer double bill, if this poster I found online is anything to go by:



And, interestingly enough, the two films can still be found together on DVD today:



Now all I need to do is watch them!